Although Denis Akiyama plays a fictionalized version of Pac-Man creator Toru Iwatani, the real Iwatani also appears in the film as an arcade repairman. Iwatani did not portray himself because he doesn't speak English.
The movie's video game high scores are based on real scores. Sam Brenner's Pac-Man high score of 3,333,360 is the highest attainable Pac-Man score, first achieved by Billy Mitchell (a higher score is possible on the Namco Pac-Man Anniversary edition machines). Ludlow Lamonsoff's Centipede score of 16,389,548 is one point higher than the real-life marathon world record set by Jim Schneider. Eddie Plant's Donkey Kong score of 1,068,100 is 100 points higher than Hank Chien's former world record.
Matt Frewer portrays an alien version of Max Headroom, a role he made famous in numerous 1980s TV productions. It's the first appearance of Max since 2007 when he appeared in Channel 4 commercials promoting their switch to digital broadcasts. Max was always presented as a computer generated character, but was always portrayed by Frewer in makeup. Pixels marks the first time Max Headroom was an actual computer generated character.
Sony's Playstation 4 is referenced twice in this movie. Once at the start of the movie when Brenner has to set up some equipment and once near the end "PS4" is mentioned. This is not the first time Sony has done this in one of their pictures. PlayStation 4 features heavily in Chappie (2015).
When Brenner (Adam Sandler), Matty (Matt Lintz), and Qbert are sitting together showing footage of the Playstation 4 game "The Last Of Us", it clearly shows that Matty is pretending to play PS4 because the controller light was off. A controller's light will be lit solid when the PS4 is on, although it can be dimmed after a firmware update in 2015.
In earlier trailers, Kevin James, on the mothership, says "Don't tell anybody I killed a Smurf." In later versions of the trailer, the line is changed from "killed" to "pixelated". In the actual movie, the original line remains, but it is said by Michelle Monaghan on the streets of Washington DC.